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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

6                 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

Instruments are like the alphabet, and one must know how
to use them in order to be able to read in nature. But as the book
which contains the revelation of the greatest thoughts of a writer
derives from the alphabets the means for composing words from
letters, so nature, through the mechanism of experiments, reveals
the infinite series of her secrets.

Anyone who could spell might be able to read laboriously
the words in a spelling-book, as well as those in a work of Shakes-
peare, provided that in the last case the print was clear enough.
The person who is initiated only into the crudity of experimenting
is like the person who spells out the letter-sense of the words in
a spelling-book; and it is at such a stage that we leave teachers
if we limit their training to mechanical methods.

Instead of that we must make them interpreters of the spirit
of nature, just as the man who, having once learnt to spell, may
learn to read by means of graphic symbols the thoughts of Shakes-
peare, Goethe or Dante.

As we see, the difference is great and the way is long.

Yet our first mistake was natural. The child who has finished
the spelling-book imagines that he can read; indeed he reads the
shop-signs, the titles of newspapers and every word or sentence
which comes under his eye. He would make a very simple mistake,
if, on entering a library, he imagined that he could read the meaning
of the books in it. If he tried, he would feel that he could only
read mechanically, and would leave the library to go to school
again.

The illusion is the same when it is attempted to train teachers
for a new system of education by teaching them anthropometry
and experimental psychology.

*                 *                  *                  *

Let us put aside the difficulties of training teacher-scientists
in that accepted sense; let us not even make an attempt at a pro-
gramme, because otherwise we should have to deviate into a subject
which lies outside our purpose. Let us suppose, instead, that we
have already prepared the teachers, through prolonged practice